CLEVELAND (WJW) — For 121 years, Little Italy’s Feast of the Assumption celebration has drawn large crowds. But this year, the streets will be much quieter as the August 15th event has been canceled due to COVID-19.
“This decision is rough because the feast is Little Italy for the whole year and is one of the largest longest attended street festivals in the state of Ohio,” said La Dolce Vita Owner Terry Tarantino.
Ward 6 Councilman Blaine Griffin spoke with us about the decision.
“This is a huge loss. It’s not just a big block party, this is the solemnity of the assumption of Mary which is a very holy moment for the Italian-American community, Catholic Community,” he said.
Holy Rosary Church and Cleveland leaders say they made the decision for the health and safety of volunteers, vendors and participants.
“The feast should not be the catalyst to make this disease worse this coming fall,” said Tarantino.
Griffin says he, Mayor Jackson’s administration and Father Joseph Previte had several conversations to try accommodate the celebration.
“We tried to look if we could configure it in different ways to make it smaller, if we could just take different portions of it, but every scenario that we came up with could not meet the guidelines that the governor had put in place,” he said.
Church and city officials say they’ve been monitoring the effects of the pandemic and in making this decision, considered the actions taken by other special events in the area.
“I absolutely believe they made the right decision based on the information they have now,” said Tarantino.
He says he anticipated the feast would be canceled.
“People are not ready to go out for the most part. And the feast is a lot of older people, so a lot of older people are apprehensive about attending events,” he said.
Griffin noted the cancellations of both Irish and Polish heritage celebrations this year because of the virus.
“A lot of the ethnic groups have lost their cultural days, and that’s how we celebrate Cleveland. Cleveland has 117 different cultures,” he said.
Griffin encourages people to continue supporting the Little Italy businesses or even taking a staycation in the area.
“As council, we have passed legislation to extend the restaurants to be able to come out further into the sidewalks and the parking lots,” said Griffin.
The church and Griffin say they are talking about having a smaller procession that day.
“It’s still important to have some sort of symbolic presence to recognize the religious meaning of the assumption of Mary,” he said.
In a joint statement, the church and city leaders thanked those who have celebrated in the past and look forward to continuing the tradition in 2021